In this face-to-face session as part of the Education and Training Foundation funded programme, delivered by a number of University partners (mine being Sheffield Hallam University), we began by exploring the design of an Initial Teacher Education curriculum. What is it that trainee teachers need and how could we enable them to make progress with this?
We were asked to discuss the aspects of teaching we felt were the most important for trainees to engage with- especially those things which the mentor might be best placed to support. Much of our list turned out to be aspects we felt had been missed out of our own teacher training and/or mentor relationship when we started out-
- The practicalities of the role- managing workload, time and being organised
- Appreciating ‘impact’ so that strategies can be adjusted/prioritised accordingly
- Being friendly versus being friends- boundaries
- Setting ground rules in the form of ‘shared values’
- Practical classroom management-including assertive discipline
- Pastoral care side of the role
- Their expectations versus the reality of the sector
- Aspects of the role best summed up as ‘teachery things’
As a trainee teacher, it’s important for them to begin defining themselves- what kind of ‘self’ will they bring to the role and their students? Observing others helps them to shape this but they need to be encouraged to reflect on the development of this ‘person’ for themselves. Who are they as a teacher? This is especially important in the post-compulsory sector when teacher identity is so much more complex- they may be an engineer, hairdresser, plumber, veterinary nurse- but is this who they are as a teacher? Stepping into their role as teacher and figuring out how to still be their professional selves as they’ve known it will be the hardest journey for them to take.
They ‘have an expertise and identity from their original vocation as well as a new identity that derives from their role as teacher.’ (Orr, K, 2008) The problem arises in that they are unable to eradicate their preceding identity as ‘their previous experience gives them the credibility required for their new teaching role.’ (Orr, K, 2008)
As we move our trainees beyond this initially challenging journey, the sector then faces the unique challenge of continuing to develop all teaching staff (qualified teachers or not…) towards being tri-professionals. As Dan Williams describes, there is a need for them to continually update industry expertise to keep up with changes in industry that take place once they leave the profession. They must also continue to develop both their knowledge and pedagogy as well as the subject content and knowledge (Williams, D, 2015).
From here, we entered initial discussions about the shape of the curriculum. The mentor would be one very important part of this but what of the remainder and would we refer to it as ‘training’ or as education’? WE remained unsure throughout- discussing that it was perhaps training at the start with education later.. but at times we’d need to conduct it the other way around…
We had all of the usual elements you’d expect on a teacher education curriculum. We also spoke about the incorporation of 360 assessments, development of digital skills, discussions about resilience and mindset and engagement with the latest in evidence based practice.
Developing Expert Teachers
Whilst the core aim of any teacher education programme, developing ‘expert’ teachers would be a longer term aim; establishing the conditions and foundation for them to become ‘expert’ teachers in the future.
‘Expert teachers identify the most important ways to represent the subject that they teach.’
‘Expert teachers create an optimal classroom climate for learning.’
‘Expert teachers believe all students can reach the success criteria.’
‘Expert teachers influence a wide range of student outcomes not solely limited to test scores.’ (Hattie, J, 2012)
Modelling expert teaching then becomes a large part of the job for any teacher educator- engaging trainees in learning experiences and then talking about the decision making involved in getting them there. Why did I choose to do it that way rather than this way? How was that activity beneficial for your learning? Which expert teacher attitude and belief was being used there and what was ‘expert’ about it?
Developing English and maths skills
It’s become increasingly important for all Further Education teachers to develop students’ English and maths skills, both for employment and to pass their courses. Prior to the session, we were asked to complete a Functional Skills maths paper and one for English.
English- practice paper
Teaching English and having taught Functional Skills before, there were few surprises on this paper. I was however surprised that so much of the reading task was multiple choice – the new GCSE English course certainly demands a great deal more of students than the level 2 FS appears to. The jury is still out here as to which qualification currently serves our FE students best (I’m currently inclined to say neither). There’s certainly an opportunity for this paper to develop students’ evaluative and critical abilities far more than it does currently.
Maths- practice paper
The maths paper held an entirely different experience for me however. I had heard it was wordy and that our students were often struggling with the language on the paper before they could even move onto the maths. It is wordier than I had even expected and there are a great number of details to take in before a question can be answered- students’ comprehension skills will need to be well-developed if they are to tackle such papers with success.
In some of the questions I was asked to check my answer and show that I had done my check… I had no idea how to do this. Along with this, it was clear there was certain knowledge that I was particularly rusty with and how highly knowledge features in the paper (conversion from degrees C to F for instance..). I soon found that when I was able to do a question, I felt pleased and motivated to continue. The questions I could recollect how to do were an enjoyable challenge BUT when there was something I didn’t have a clue about, I felt tired out and bored… I decided I would find a question I liked instead! Like, ooh, a graph! I know these!
The reforms to FS will no doubt be welcome for the sector when they arrive; hopefully making them far more functional and far less contrived. How often, really, do our students need to read a timetable for a bus or train these days with apps that will give them the information merely by inputting the times and days they wish to travel to their destination? Whilst being able to apply English and maths skills confidently is key when they enter the workplace we’re preparing them for, there is far more to the education English and maths can offer that we mustn’t forget about – logical approaches to problem solving, curiosity and determination to reach an answer, evaluative skills and approaching unfamiliar situations with curiosity.
So, the teacher educator needs to work with their trainees on how to develop English and maths skills but they also need to develop trainees’ English and maths skills sufficiently well that they, in turn, can develop the skills of their students.
This, in short, requires continual revisiting. Regularly asking at the end of the session, Where was the maths and English in today’s lesson? develops students’ reflective skills as they can explore how well this development was executed but they can then begin to explore how they’re achieving it in their own lessons. Much of the battle is helping trainees to translate how they feel about their own English and maths skills into a) doing something to develop their own skills and b) allowing themselves to appreciate how this affects the mindsets of their students in similar ways.
We’ve been working on a set of English skills (still a work in progress) that all of our teachers need to develop in students and we’ll be working on materials to accompany the development of their own skills too. We will be working on a maths set to accompany this.
|Making use of a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words||Writing in full, clear and concise sentences||Organise ideas into a clear structure for presentation (individually or as part of a group)||Listen to questions carefully and respond in a straightforward manner as part of a presentation|
|Reading to understand meaning (explicit)||Spelling key terms correctly||Plan language carefully for a presentation (individually or as part of a group)||Listen to questions carefully and respond in a straightforward and suitably detailed manner as part of a teacher’s Q&A|
|Reading to understand underlying meaning (implicit)||Make notes in a logical and clear manner||Choose words carefully when contributing to a discussion||Listen to others’ contributions during a discussion to avoid repeating their points|
|Reading to locate specific details (searching for information)||Plan ideas carefully in a logical structure||Structure ideas before contributing to a discussion||Listen to others’ contributions during a discussion in order to make a meaningful response|
|Differentiate between facts and opinions, including ‘fake facts’||Spelling commonly confused words correctly||Listen to and carefully follow instructions|
|Reading for structure- sequencing information||Use appropriate punctuation|
|Make use of a wide ranging vocabulary (find alternatives for words you repeat frequently)|
|Writing to explain – writing about concepts in a clear manner|
|Writing to evaluate – writing about ideas in a critical way|
|Writing to persuade – writing about subjects in a persuasive way (convincing someone of a POV)|
Embedding, Promoting, Developing
Image available from here
Whilst movements have been made to move beyond embedding (an action that became ‘hiding’), a new term has been introduced- that of ‘promoting’. I can’t think of that as anything other than ramming English and maths down students’ throats, willing or not. Beating them relentlessly over the head with the benefits.
‘Developing’ students’ skills works well for me-
- We’re not including English and maths for the sake of it merely to tick a box.
- We’re not working on their skills but without explicitly sharing that it’s English and maths so that it’s by stealth.
- We’re not marking out the adding of two numbers in a level 3 class as ‘maths’ when it’s something most of them could have achieved when they were 6 years of age.
In developing, we are actively reflecting on where their English and maths skills are currently, both in general and in relation to the subject-specific skills that will serve as the foundation for their future success in their chosen industry. We’re then working to create activities that will provide maximum space and opportunity for them to develop a wide range of skills towards both competence and confidence.
Berliner, D C (date unknown) Expert Teachers: Their Characteristics, Developments and Accomplishments, Available at: https://www.sportscoachuk.org/sites/default/files/Berliner-(2004)-Expert-Teachers.pdf
Hattie, J (2012) Visible Learning for Teachers, quoted in The Main Idea, Available at: http://www.tdschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The+Main+Idea+-+Visible+Learning+for+Teachers+-+April+2013.pdf
Orr, K (2008) Dual Identities: enhancing the in-service teacher-trainee experience in further education, Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/escalate/5125_Dual_identities_-_enhancing_th
Williams, D (2015) The Tri-Professional, Available at: https://furtheredagogy.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/the-tri-professional/https://furtheredagogy.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/the-tri-professional/